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Pickaway

Pickaway started life as a banjo tune, recorded in 1972 by Vic Jordan. It was featured on the Atteiram album of the same name and also on the Lester Flatt LP Flatt On Victor - Vic Jordan was Lester's banjo player at the time.

Pickaway was one of the hottest bluegrass instrumentals of the 1970s, and is still popular today, particularly in jam sessions. It presents the mandolin player with the usual problem of what to play for a tune which is basically a series of banjo rolls. Doyle Lawson dealt with this difficulty very neatly in his melodic-style break on Mike Auldridge's fine 1972 album Dobro. Doyle's break is an immaculate example of a style which is epitomised on the classic Tennessee Dream album of a few years later.

The first break tabbed below is the closest I can get to Doyle Lawson's playing. On this break he seems in places to be employing "lift offs" (tabbed as Lo) rather than pull offs, to create a punchy effect. A lift off is the opposite of a hammer on: you just raise the fretting finger and let the second note sound more faintly, rather than picking it with the left hand finger.

The second break comprises a series of my own licks. I feel somewhat presumptuous putting them in after the Doyle Lawson break, but they may give you some extra ideas and a jumping off point for creating your own break, which is, after all, what bluegrass is about.

Pickaway is usually played pretty fast, around half note = 152 bpm. You may find it helpful to listen to the banjo MIDI at Jack's MIDI Music, which conveys the flavour of the banjo tune played slower and then up to speed.

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